Conversation and the Local Church

Highly recommend for anyone wanting to have a more missional church.

As the crowds prepare to descend on Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, the city has been preparing to showcase its very best to the watching world. In addition to the football game and a downtown Super Bowl Village filled with all sorts of entertainment, from live music to a 650 foot-long zip-line, Indy is also highlighting the Super Bowl Legacy Project, a $150+ million development project on the city’s Near Eastside. This collection of twenty neighborhoods just east of downtown was selected for the commitment of its neighbors to talking and working together toward the common good of their place. For over 40 years, the churches of the Near Eastside have been a major factor in the development of their neighborhood. The story of one of these churches, Englewood Christian Church – which was recently recognized by The New York Times for their work in the neighborhood’s redevelopment – has been told in a new ebook.

The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as a Hopeful Practice of Church Communities by C. Christopher Smith, member of Englewood Christian Church and editor of The Englewood Review of Books, tells how the church has been transformed by the practice of conversation: conversation among its members and conversations with its neighbors. Englewood was once a thriving mega-church, but like the neighborhood surrounding it on Indianapolis’ east side, the church spiraled downward for decades in the face of widespread economic decline.

Today, Englewood – both church and community – are thriving again. Not that ECC has restored its mega-church status, but this church of 200 is having an impact that far outweighs its numbers and that upends the received wisdom about how churches work best. This story of recovery is about moving away from status symbols of success and finding a new path to strengthening and deepening community ties and creating contexts for human flourishing.

Can a modest church foment social change simply by encouraging people to talk and listen to one another? C. Christopher Smith says that it can, and in this brief but extraordinary ebook, he shares his church’s story of discovering the surprising and powerful virtue of conversation.

The Virtue of Dialogue is available to download as a Kindle ebook for $2.99 and is also available for the Nook at the same price.

“This little book could be revolutionary for your own faith community.” – Scot McKnight “This is a good read of an incredible sign of hope in our time.” – Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove


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  • Mark Craft

    Hey Scot, it’s your long-lost classmate from “Prezeltown USA.” I’m in Indianapolis (actually back in Indianapolis) working on the Super Bowl. I’m the volunteer communications liaison for the Legacy Project. Watch for a story in *Christianity Today,* hopefully this week, on Englewood Christian Church, one of the churches responsible for the revitalization of Indianapolis’ near eastside. Their work was so successful they founded the Englewood Community Development Corporation to take their efforts to the nect level. Truly remarkable!

  • Another witness to this fruitful theme:
    The Art of Conversation at The Determined Christian

  • melody cherrette

    I have read the preview so far, I will be ordering the book on the first. As always I know it will be good. Chris is an excellent writer.

  • scotmcknight

    Mark, great to hear from you friend.

  • For those who are interested, I am running a blog series called “Becoming Conversational” that is based on this ebook and suggests ideas for how churches might enrich the conversational life of their congregation.

    The first post of the series is here:

    Chris Smith

  • jjmontgomery

    Hopefully, once the ‘Super Debauchery’ is over, the city will pour the same effort in resources, i.e. volunteers, materiel, millions of dollars, celebrity influence, etc… into such deserving projects such as the Englewood community as they did to entertain the elite super-rich for a day or three, and line the pockets of the filthy rich for their investment portfolio. My guess is…NOT! However, it is a good thing that at least the ECC story is getting out. By comparison, at least, it will show where the real priorities have lain heretofore.